How to Become an HVAC/R Technician: Cool in Summer, Warm in Winter

If you are the technical, hands-on type who wants to enter the workforce soon, earn a competitive wage, and join a rapidly growing field, you might be interested in learning how to become an HVAC/R technician. HVAC techs, also known as heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, are responsible for the installation, repair, and maintenance of heating, ventilation, air condition, and refrigeration systems. Though generally trained to a certain level in all the basic tasks of the trade, HVAC techs tend to specialize. Technicians will work on either the heating or the cooling side, be either primarily involved in installation or maintenance and repair or work on only a single type of system.

HVAC/R Technician Education Degree Requirements

There are several routes to becoming an HVAC/R technician. Often, HVAC techs receive their training through technical schools and career college programs lasting between six months and two years, depending on whether it is a certificate or associate’s degree program. A typical curriculum will include courses in industrial, commercial, and residential heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, which discuss the basics of maintenance, installation, and repair. For an associate’s degree, you may also have to take classes in shop math, mechanical drawing, applied physics and chemistry, electronics, and computer skills, as well.

Apprenticeships also remain an important path in the HVAC job market. Reputable apprenticeships are run by the local chapters of trade organizations like the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America and the Mechanical Contractors Association of America – many specialized professional organizations exist in the HVAC field, and you should look for a trade group and an apprenticeship that suit your particular interests. A formal apprenticeship will typically run three to five years, including both classroom time and paid job training.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all states require that HVAC techs pass an examination of some sort and keep their certifications current, which includes remaining up-to-date with electrical codes, safety protocols, and materials handling requirements, particularly for refrigerants.

Becoming an HVAC/R Technician: Career Outlook

HVAC technician employment is closely tied to housing stock, building construction, and environmental regulation, which means that it is a growth area, with an expected whopping 28% increase in total jobs from 2008-2018. New regulations regarding indoor air quality, in particular, mean more complex heating and cooling systems, which in turn, is spurring the demand for technicians. Service contracts help even out seasonal fluctuations in demand and keep incomes steady even when extremes of temperature aren’t making customers howl for heating and cooling services. The increasing prevalence of refrigerated food for sale in gas stations, pharmacies, and other businesses also add to the demand for HVAC/R work.

In 2008, median wages for HVAC techs came in at about $19 an hour, but climbed as high as $30. What you earn will depend on your experience, work environment, and length of employment, as well as your variety of skills. In addition, particularly in small communities, HVAC technicians frequently have opportunities to open their own small businesses, securing local service contracts for heating and cooling system manufacturers. You can begin training to become an HVAC technician today by enrolling in a program featured on our site.